Chang vs. White: An Artist's Take

Artist Michael Marsicano discusses the inspiration for illustrating a chef battle for the ages

"Chang V. White," by Michael Mariscano.

Last year, The Daily Meal published its first ever March Madness Food Fight, an NCAA-style competition featuring chefs and personalities divided into four brackets: TV personalities, restaurateurs, chefs, and food media. In the end, there were two big food personalities who squared off, chef Thomas Keller and chef-turned-food TV personality Anthony Bourdain. Ultimately, Bourdain won, his victory decided by The Daily Meal's readers who voted him the 2011 champion. But there were some fantastic match-ups in some of the earlier rounds, for instance chef Grant Achatz vs. chef Charlie Trotter, former New York Times critics Frank Bruni and Sam Sifton, Jean-Georges vs. Mario Batali, and Bobby Flay vs. Giada. But one early matchup between chefs Michael White and David Chang seemed particularly fantastic, one that tempted the imagination of New York City artist Michael Marsicano to portray it.

The result, an ink drawing done on heavy bond paper that was colored and textured in Photoshop, "Chang V White," was a blast. It was a great matchup of talented New York City-based chefs with expanding empires and ambitions that would have been worthy of a pay-per-view Iron Chef-style competition. In The Daily Meal's face-off, chef Chang's virtual victory over White was explained thusly: "David's more pugnacious."

In his food fight, artist Michael Marsicano depicted a large Michael White nimbly flinging fish, lobster, prawns, octopus, lobsters, and uni at a smaller David Chang over his shoulder like ninja stars, while the Momofuku master stood on White's back slyly preparing to spank him with a whole hog (click to purchase). You could almost picture the piece appearing in chef Chang's own McSweeney's-published Lucky Peach magazine.

With March Madness nearing, and a new food fight full of similar chef and food personality match-ups on the horizon, it was time to check in with artist Michael Marsicano to find out more about his inspiration for the print, and which other chefs he thought might be fun to imagine facing off.

You call yourself an "enthusiastic purveyor of embellished realities" who seeks like-minded, inspired patrons. Can you expand on what those "embellished realities" are?

All that is just a fancy way of saying "illustrator for hire." Actually, I use the term "embellished realities" because I tend to dramatize aspects of everyday life in my work.   

What inspired the piece?

The Daily Meal is a favorite food site of mine. I had some down time in between jobs so I did this just for fun.

Why did you choose to illustrate this particular second-round face-off?

I loved the idea of bracketing the heavy hitters in the business. Really brilliant. When it got down to the Sweet Sixteen, Michael White was pitted against David Chang. I was fresh off of my first and only trip to the incredible Marea. And since I'm a fan of pretty much anything that David Chang does, the thought of those two battling was really funny.